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Changes in workers' compensation procedures affect workers

There have been legal protections in place to help injured workers secure benefits for more than a century. These laws have been crucial in providing support and financial options to people who are hurt through the course of their employment.

However, much has changed since the first workers' compensation laws were put into place, from the nature of workplace injuries to the types of workplaces in which a person in injured. But recent changes to the workers' compensation approval process that have been sweeping across the U.S. could be among the most devastating for workers who already struggle to get the benefits they deserve.

According to reports, 10 states across the U.S. have approved solutions that make it more difficult for injured workers to get or continue to receive benefits. They have done this by giving more decision-making power to employers and insurance companies. One such troubling practice is the option for these parties to bring in a third-party medical professional to review a claim.

These reviewers typically have zero contact with the applicant. They only have access to medical records, which don't always tell an applicant's full story. Reviewers make crucial decisions about whether a person will receive benefits and how much money they can receive without ever having to meet with or speak to the people directly affected by their decision. Most troubling, however, is the fact that there is typically no way to challenge the decisions made by these outside medical reviewers.

Thankfully, Ohio is not on the list of states who have expanded their use of these third-party reviewers. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that that will be the case forever. The other states that use them have reportedly found that there is a definitive financial upside if they can find ways to deny or minimize compensation payouts; if using independent reviewers accomplishes this goal, it is an option many other states will likely consider, no matter how detrimental it is to workers.

Even if the process of having a workers' compensation application reviewed doesn't change significantly in the near future, it can still be very complicated and confusing to try and navigate the workers' compensation system. Working with an attorney who is already familiar with the process and the challenges that often come up during this process can be a considerable source of relief.

Source: NPR, "Employers And Insurers Gain Control In Workers' Compensation Disputes," Howard Berkes, March 30, 2015

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